Press Row: Dec. 8, 2006

Press Row: Dec. 8, 2006

Sports pages around the country are buzzing with baseball news. Here are some outside takes on events happening in and around the Major Leagues:

Murray Chass: "Talk of misconduct is swirling around Red Sox"
Ray Ratto: "Magowan's tough talk was just blather"
Dan Connolly: "Events in Florida don't warm O's fans"
Mark Gonzales: "GM Williams sticks to his guns"

Other stories from Dec. 8

Murray Chass: "Talk of misconduct is swirling around Red Sox"
The Boston Red Sox might think of the Yankees as the Evil Empire, but other people in baseball now seem to view the Red Sox as a team that feels it can operate outside the rules.

According to executives of several clubs, the Red Sox were a hot topic of private conversation at the General Managers Meeting last month and at the Winter Meetings this week. Several officials who work for Major League Baseball said there appeared to be good reason for the talk. Many of those interviewed did not want to be quoted by name be-cause of what they viewed as the sensitivity of talking critically about another team's conduct.

Exhibit A for the disgruntled is Boston's signing of J. D. Drew, who walked away from the final three years of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a move that his agent, Scott Boras, said was aboveboard and precipitated by the marketplace. The signing of Drew could lead to an investigation by the Commissioner's office into possible tampering by the Red Sox; one baseball official said the commissioner's office would vigorously investigate the matter if it received a complaint, but added that no complaint has been forthcoming.

One general manager said that many people at the general managers' meeting, after hearing that Drew would sign with Boston, urged the Dodgers to file a tampering charge.

"We haven't reached a decision yet," Ned Colletti, the Dodgers' general manager, said by telephone yesterday be-fore leaving the winter meetings in Orlando, Fla.

Others described Colletti as angry about the Drew development and said that relations between Colletti and Theo Epstein, Boston's general manager, had become strained to the point where Colletti wasn't returning Epstein's telephone calls.

Epstein denied tampering with Drew, whom he tried unsuccessfully to sign two years ago and then signed earlier this week to a five-year, $70 million contract.
-- The New York Times

Ray Ratto: "Magowan's tough talk was just blather"
Well, so much for fiscal discipline. So much for turning the page. So much for Barry Bonds not being able to use Peter Magowan as his own leather-upholstered ottoman.

The Giants and their best friend/bete noire have made one more deal, for one more year, for at least $16 million perhaps as much as $20 million more, and He Who Must Be Centerpieced will be back, a triumph of one man's ability to make another man bid against nobody. And all you folks who wanted to cuff Brian Sabean about the face and neck for defying the new vision for Giants baseball can back off here and now. The old vision still lives, and it's Magowan's.

Sabean's signing decisions, to re-up with Ray Durham and Pedro Feliz and scoop up Dave Roberts and Rich Aurilia and Bengie Molina, had been savaged as short-sighted by the kind and a filthy lie by the suspicious. Giants fans had been told by Magowan that a new day was a'dawnin', and that you'd all come to like it.

Only Sabean knew something nobody thought conceivable -- that Bonds still had his hold over Magowan, so much so that the owner couldn't walk away. Sabean knew that the bank had already been spoken for, because he got to be in the meetings where Topic A was discussed ad nauseam, and that Magowan wasn't ready for a new direction at all. There was still juice to be squeezed from this pineapple, and it would end up in Magowan's glass come hell or high water.

It will never be known whether Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, had another offer for Bonds, one with which he could tantalize the Giants. Borris' work on that secret other bidder had been wholly unconvincing, especially when Bonds decided to go Project Runway through the winter meetings.

But we forgot that Borris wasn't trying to sell us. He was trying to sell Magowan, and Magowan had always been Bonds' ATM.
-- The San Francisco Chronicle

Dan Connolly: "Events in Florida don't warm O's fans"
While exhausted in their hotel suite at the end of yesterday's winter meetings, Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan and vice president Jim Duquette shared a previously withheld nugget with the local media.

The Orioles had jumped in late on the sweepstakes for ballyhooed pitcher Jason Schmidt, a starter they originally thought would be out of their price range, and offered the right-hander a three-year deal worth about $48 million. He eventually decided to stay on the West Coast and accepted the Los Angeles Dodgers' three-year, $47 million proposal.

Flanagan and Duquette told the story to illustrate that quality players are interested in coming to Camden Yards and that ownership will pay big bucks for the right person. It was supposed to be a ray of hope in an otherwise yawner of a week.

Yet the message that shone through was this: Here we go again.

Forget about putting "Baltimore" on the road jerseys, how about stitching on "Bridesmaids" instead? OK, so the Orioles were close to getting Schmidt, but he's now a Dodger. So is Luis Gonzalez, who became the Orioles' Plan B after losing out on Carlos Lee, who left the Orioles at the altar and eloped to Houston. To its credit, the club signed four relievers to bolster a terrible bullpen, but the guy they wanted most, Justin Speier, also labeled them a finalist and then went elsewhere.

It's not for a lack of effort from the front office. Baltimore is a tough sell because of nine consecutive losing seasons and a reputation as a den of dysfunction. So instead of overpaying for mediocre talent, the Orioles smartly seem to be focusing on trades - but that hasn't gone smoothly either.
-- Baltimore Sun

Mark Gonzales: "GM Williams sticks to his guns"
General manager Ken Williams raised his shield of past success Thursday to deflect criticism in the wake of the Freddy Garcia trade.

"We're not trying to pretend we have all the answers, but we have a plan and hopefully that plan will turn out kind of [like it] trended before," Williams said before leaving baseball's Winter Meetings.

"Where eventually it will be proven we're making the right moves and when we decide to make a move with those guys, we'll be idiots for acquiring them and idiots for letting them go."

Shortly after Williams made his comments, the Sox quickly moved to defuse a report that they would send 18-game winner Jon Garland to Houston for speedy center fielder Willy Taveras and pitcher Taylor Buchholz.

Buchholz, 25, had shoulder problems and bone chips in his right elbow in 2003 and a strained shoulder in 2004 that led to arthroscopic surgery on his labrum and biceps in November of that year.

According to one National League general manager, Buchholz was not traded because he failed a physical, although he told the Houston Chronicle he has not had an examination since Spring Training.

"We have nothing going on," Williams said before leaving with club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

Williams admitted the Sox were "close to about four or five things, but they didn't materialize for us for various reasons."
-- Chicago Tribune

Other stories from Dec. 8
"His Barryness' whiff still leaves him a Giant"
-- USA Today
"Quiet Cashman zooms in on Pettitte, Zito" -- The New York Times
"Colletti is more than satisfied" -- Los Angeles Times
"Dombrowski worth price" -- The Detroit News